Law and Policy for a New Economy
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Law and Policy for a New Economy

Sustainable, Just, and Democratic

Edited by Melissa K. Scanlan

This book makes the case for a New Environmentalism, and using a systems change approach, takes the reader through ideas for reorienting the economy. It addresses the laws and policies needed to support the emergence of a new economy across a variety of major areas – from energy to food, across common pool resources, and shifting investments to capitalize locally-connected and mission-driven businesses. The authors take the approach that the challenges are much broader than setting parameters around pollution, and go to the heart of the dominant global political economy. It explores the values needed to transform our current economic system into a new economy supportive of ecological integrity, social justice, and vibrant democracy.
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Chapter 5: The Nature’s Trust paradigm for a sustaining economy

Mary Christina Wood


The current environmental regulatory system promotes a destructive and unsustainable economy. While environmental statutes supposedly aim to control harm inflicted by the industrial economy, in fact they perpetuate destructive economic activity by regularly authorizing permits to pollute and destroy. Corporations and profiteers controlling the bureaucratic apparatus use the law to drain the natural wealth of communities for their own profit. On those rare occasions when environmental regulation successfully halts destruction, the resulting narrative presents an impossible “jobs v. environment” conflict that undermines environmental law in the broader political milieu. This chapter sets forth a legal paradigm called Nature’s Trust that draws upon the public trust principle to support both economic prosperity and ecological integrity. The public trust is an ancient doctrine, manifest in every state in the United States and in many countries throughout the world, including India, Kenya and the Philippines, to name a few. It requires government to act as a trustee with respect to the natural world and its elements. A fundamental component of democracy, the trust empowers citizens to hold government accountable for ecological protection. It also forms an inherent constraint on a private property regime that empowers colossal destruction. Finally, the Nature’s Trust paradigm reformulates the role of the corporation in modern society, recognizing imbued fiduciary limitations arising from state charters.

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